I’ve donned an apron, a sign that things are getting serious.
A sheet of plastic wrap covers a couple of chicken breasts laid out on a sheet pan. I pound the meat into ½-inch cutlets. I pulse sliced bread and Parmesan cheese in my food processor to make crumbs. I run through the steps of flouring, dipping and coating and am just about ready to cook my chicken Milanese in oil in a heavy-bottom skillet on my stove. But first, I turn back to my laptop on the counter, cued up to America’s Test Kitchen’s cooking school, to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
Virtual cooking classes are convenient, and after adjusting to not being in a classroom and able to raise my hand to ask questions, I find I actually like it. Unlike a live class, you can watch a virtual one again and again – eliminating the fear of missing something. I signed up for a free two-week trial of ATK’s “school.” I’ll be billed $19.95 per month if I decide to stick with it. Just a few minutes into a class – one of 344 on their site – I see the main advantage: The classes are technique-driven. The instructor zeroes in on each step – for example, the exact way to dip your cutlet in flour and pat each side so there isn’t excess flour and you avoid gummy breading.
You can search by recipe type, ingredients and level of difficulty. Lessons focus on a specific recipe, like pepper-crusted beef tenderloin, or a broader theme, like classic sauces or cooking in cast iron.
For my chicken Milanese, I switch from watching in video mode to studying each step by photo, mostly because I’ve watched the video a few times through before starting my recipe and while the instructor is knowledgeable and thorough, she’s a dud in terms of personality. The site also includes ATK’s extensive reviews of kitchen tools used in the recipes, a gallery to post photos of your dish and a self-evaluation quiz to gauge your success. If you upgrade to “instructor access” ($39.95 per month), you can email a photo of your final dish to the instructor for feedback.
After cooking my chicken cutlets to a deep golden brown on each side, I drain them on paper towels and even though they are still hot, I can’t hold back from cutting into one of the pieces and taking a bite. Crispy, juicy yumminess!
One thing I miss about in-person classes is the ability to ask questions of the instructor in real time. But the fact that I can access this class whenever I want (at 9 p.m., in my PJs!) is a bonus. In the end, I decided not to spring for the paid membership, mostly because I wouldn’t watch enough of the classes to make it worthwhile. I’m also old school in that I prefer to use cookbooks! But before my free trial expires, I am definitely making ATK’s ultimate homemade ravioli.
Enhance Your Expertise
Hone your skills with these local virtual classes.
MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MARKET Jan. 14: Hearty Beef and Noodle Soup with Ranch Bread; Jan. 21: Adaptable Feast. 60- to 90-minute classes start at 5:30 p.m. $10 per class.
SHULLY’S CUISINE & EVENTS Live cook-along format. Ingredients are included. Topics range from fresh pasta-making to winter comfort classics. Class length: 60-90 minutes. $30-$50 per class.
VILLAGE CHEESE SHOP Jan. 13: A class about the important role women have played in crafting artisan cheese and wine (plus, a tasting). 60-minute classes start at 5 p.m. Cost: $35.